Nigerian airlines, under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), have asked the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to urgently review the 90-day closure of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) runway in Lagos.
AON’s letter, dated July 15, signed by Abdulmunaf Yunusa, its president, was made available to journalists in Lagos on Tuesday.
Addressing Rabiu Yadudu, managing director, FAAN, in the letter, the group asked him to convene an urgent stakeholders consultation meeting to review the closure of runway 18L.
FAAN, had, on July 7, said it would close domestic runways 18L and 36R at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) in Lagos to install an airfield ground lighting system.
The agency said the installations would commence July 8 and are expected to be completed in 90 days.
It assured that normal flight operations would not be affected by the installations.
But in the letter, AON said the closure is taking a toll on its members’ operations as more cost has been incurred.
It added that since the runway was closed, no work has commenced yet.
“The AON welcomes the effort by FAAN to install runway lighting on runway 18L, at last,” the letter reads in part.
“However, international best practice for such critical airfield infrastructure projects is for the airport operator to enter into discussions with all affected parties, to arrive at an optimal arrangement that allows the work to be done; while limiting the inconvenience, economic impact, and safety implications on all concerned.
“In this instance, FAAN failed to do this.
“The closure of the main domestic runway of MMA automatically adds an additional 10-15 percent more fuel costs per sector into and out of MMA, based on the additional flight and taxi time incurred as a result.
“The airlines have already felt these additional costs within the first week of the closure of the runway. This unnecessary burden is unsustainable for a 3-month period on the airlines.”
The group said for such infrastructure projects on runway 18L, FAAN ought to have ensured that the contractor does the work at night when the runway is not in use to limit the impact on flight operations.
“If there is an absolute need for work to be done during daylight hours, then the agreement should have been reached with the runway users on what time window would allow this,” AON added.
“For the major airport in Nigeria, AON notes with disappointment that runway 18L has been closed for a week now, with no evidence of any work going on.
“Yet the airlines have been burdened with huge but unnecessary additional costs and flight delays. Surely this situation is not in the best interests of the industry.
“Moreover, the additional taxi time due to closure of runway 18L impacts negatively on airlines’ schedule to sunset airports around the country leading to delays and cancellation of flights to these airports.
“Given the above critical concerns, AON implores the management of FAAN to urgently review this closure of runway 18L and enter into discussion with the users of the runway on a procedure for the project, that limits both the cost impact on airlines as well as disruption to normal flight operations.”
AON SEEKS INTRODUCTION OF 25 PERCENT FUEL SURCHARGE
Meanwhile, the body also wrote to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in a letter dated July 18, and directed to Musa Nuhu, its director-general, seeking his approval to remove the fuel surcharge as an ameliorative measure to cushion the effect of the continuous increase in the price of Jet A1 on airline operations in the country.
The AON noted that in addition to the crippling effect of intermittent shortages of Jet A1, the price has risen from “420 per litre in February 2022 to over 780 today.”
This, it said, has greatly increased the operational cost of airlines by over 130 percent.
“Yet, airlines are unable to increase fares and as well suffer from the unavailability of foreign exchange to conduct their operations,” AON said.
“In order to forestall a backlash and total shutdown of the system, airlines are hoping to resort to an introduction of a fuel surcharge of between 25 percent – 40 percent of NUC as a way of offsetting the additional burden brought about by increased fuel cost, bearing in mind that jet fuel accounts for about 40 percent of total operational expenses.”
The AON also called for an immediate review of the decision that airlines are required to obtain approval for an initial three months before the implementation of a fuel surcharge.
It also sought a waiver of the demand that airlines pay an additional 5 percent on the fuel surcharge entirely separate from the 5 percent ticket sales charge (TSC).
According to them, unless this is done, it will mean in effect that whatever is collected by the airlines as fuel surcharge to cushion the effect of the high fuel price will be taken away once again by NCAA.
“This in effect will amount to double jeopardy as airlines will be unable to offset the additional cost which the fuel surcharge is meant to address in the first place,” AON said.